Bang, bang, bang. Three punches in 30 seconds saw tai chi master Ma Baoguo knocked down – twice – and then out in his fight with an amateur martial artist 20 years his junior. The scenes have gone viral, racking up millions of views around the world as everyone jumps on the bandwagon to laugh at the hapless Ma and his belief that traditional Chinese martial arts are superior. Ma was the latest to find out that Chinese wushu might not be the way to go when it comes to a scrap. There have been a growing number of fights in China between exponents of the traditional martial arts and modern fighting techniques and they all end one way. Mixed martial artist Xu Xiaodong has cast himself in the Hopkins Witchfinder General role or Van Helsing to these bloodsuckers and he piped up again when Ma got smacked down . Mythbusting is vital when it comes to this particular weird corner of the internet. Such fights have seen the wushu masters blame defeats on slipping, not having enough food beforehand, the venue being changed, the crowd being partisan for their opponent, not being used to the local cuisine and laying off their full power because it might be fatal. Ref asked tai chi master to show mercy before embarrassing KO These men who claim that China’s traditional martial arts are the superior fighting style are essentially pub bores – bending the ears of anyone who will listen but unable to box them off when it comes to an actual fight. Despite what anyone may tell you otherwise the people of China know this too. They are not fooled by the “kung-foolery”. Cynicism is not a Western concept. This was a massive story in China spreading out faster than Ma did on the mat, racking up tens of millions of views on Weibo, shared on WeChat and making the news. Even the English-language Global Times ran a story on the ridicule from social media users. Broadcaster PP Sports ran a story that had its tongue firmly in its cheek. “After falling to the ground, he was taken to hospital for treatment. Of course, it cannot be ruled out that the master is only a superficial injury, and the other party may be internally injured.” Ouch. Some netizens even questioned whether the match was staged to make Chinese kung fu look bad. So much so that Wang’s boxing club told website thepaper.cn that they were not a government organisation, the video was not planned and he was not paid. As much as anyone would like to tell you, there is no great conspiracy where these kung-fu masters are held in public esteem and backed by the state. If there was then surely it would have been covered up as soon as it saw the light of day? That would not have stopped “Horse power country” (Ma’s name) from being shared one way or another. Chinese internet users bob and weave around censorship on a daily basis. The censor farms fight back just as quick, hence the banning of Big Yellow Ducks, Winnie The Pooh and Peppa Pig. Ma’s knockout, which trended on Weibo, is further evidence, as is the act he was unknown before his 30-seconds of infamy became a hashtag. Even now Ma has only 8,000 followers on the site where the most followed person, actor Xie Na has 125 million – and he lost 14 million after announcing he had a girlfriend. For contrast, Mike Tyson joined Douyin – China’s TikTok – this week and had 2.5 million followers in 24 hours. Ma is not popular, nor is he backed by the state. He is no more supported by the government than any other old man shouting at clouds. China recognises 129 martial arts and tai chi is but one, mostly supported as a form of exercise rather than combat. Hopefully there has been a Chinese translation of Jon Ronson’s 2015 book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed? for him to read. But based on his past pronouncements he will breathe deep off the oxygen of publicity. Ma’s first media attention came when he claimed he would take on Xu (before the police “prevented” it) and could beat UFC women’s strawweight champ Zhang Weili. That Ma has to make such claims is because the UFC is growing in popularity. Li “The Leech” Jingliang helped but it has reached a new audience thanks to Zhang. MMA and boxing have risen from the grass roots despite difficulties with licences in the country and arguably the battle between ancient and modern martial arts that is a battle that has long been lost. The hundreds of thousands of comments on the KO would suggest so. As Jet Li said some years ago, wushu is huajiazi – literally “flower stand” – meaning attractive, but without substance”. That quote was brought up again after Ma got his medicine. Tyson said it better: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Maybe that will Ma will stop running his, but make no mistake few in China were buying his chat. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.